Measuring things up

A thought came to me today while I was watching this video on YouTube – Why can’t we start doing something like this over here in the States?

It’s not like the TV stations could easily whip up a way to stick a couple of more characters on the weather graphics; I can see this happening – the person reading the weather could say “For Tuesday, Partly cloudy with brisk northwest winds at 20-30 miles per hour and a high of 28 or two degrees below zero celsius. Tuesday night, Clear, low 18, that’s minus eight Celsius; winds west at 10 to 20 miles per hour with gusts up to 30.” Doing something that simple would go quite far in getting people more literate in this odd thing called “international standards”, because let’s face it folks, we aren’t the only country in the world here.

As it is, it’s not like we’re not exposed to metric units in every day life as it is – there are some banks who put Celsius temperatures on their thermometer displays; the National Weather service has the option of viewing forecasts in degrees Celsius (though they don’t convert the wind speeds to kph or m/s). Almost all products sold in grocery stores have both conventional and metric measurements on them. Bottled water is sold in metric sizes – the most common being 500 mL (marketed as 16.9 fluid ounces). Soda is sold in 2-liter bottles. There are also some dry goods sold in metric units – I’ve seen 20kg bags of dog food, even 17kg ones. Even taking the simple step of making the metric unit the primary unit of measure on the product would be beneficial.

The one area where you’d probably see the most resistance, however, is distances. For the longest time, when you drove to Chicago, you would see a sign just south of the Airport that read – “Chicago 81 mi 131 km”. It was a peculiar oddity, but a neat one. However in the late ’90s, the Department of Transportation replaced the sign with one reading only in miles. Again, as with the weather forecasts, it would be quite easy to start to integrate metric units into road signs – most of them have enough space on them to add a little piece of extra material that would read the kilometer equivalent to the mileage listed. Admittedly, it would be strange to see a sign that says “Airport Exit, 1 mile (1.6 km)” but you would adjust to it, and eventually some states would swap the distances.

However, in an odd coincidence, I believe that the UK still has everything measured in miles on road signs and in cars like it is over here. I think that Ireland just made the switch to kilometers in the last couple of years.

The only questions that would linger are ones of people being willing to accept having to finally learn how people outside of this country measure everything. It’s by no means trying to force it down the throat; I mean if that were the case, we’d just say “Ok, from July 1st 2007 we’re only going to be measuring things in metric units, you better know them now.” All I’m suggesting is to try to encourage the integration of the international standard into everyday life, and allow it to become acceptable to use these units.

I will add that I sometimes have to convert back to conventional units to allow myself to get a grasp of things.

Oh, and one last thing – if you switch to kilograms, the number representing your weight reduces by a fact of 2.2…